US considers plans to train Ukrainian army troops: General

AFP| Updated: Jul 14, 2015, 02:46 AM IST

The United States is considering plans to train soldiers in the Ukrainian army in the next few months, the US army`s most senior commander in Europe said Monday.

The move would expand a US training program already under way for troops working under the Ukrainian interior ministry.

Ukraine has deployed some 64,000 soldiers to its eastern conflict zone as well as interior ministry forces.

"We would begin ministry of defense army units (training) starting in November" said Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, commander of US Army Europe, adding that "the final decision has not been taken."

The training would focus on basic tactical activities, with an emphasis on life-saving techniques and operations in highly contested areas, he said.

"It`s a very effective way to help them that doesn`t necessarily require weapons" he said.

US allies in Europe must still agree to the plan, Hodges said, cautioning that "the unity of NATO is the paramount concern in my view here."

Ukraine has waged a 15-month war against Russian-backed eastern insurgents, in a conflict that has claimed more than 6,500 lives.

"We probably are at a point now where there is a potential for a another offensive" from the Russian-backed rebels, Hodges said.

He added that Russia`s long-term objective was not necessarily to take control of eastern Ukraine or create a land corridor linking Russia to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in March 2014.

"Russian interests are in keeping Ukraine bubbling, disrupted. Anything they can do to undermine President (Petro) Poroshenko, so that Ukraine could never join the EU, that`s their interest," he said.

Meanwhile, Poroshenko was confronting a fresh crisis Monday as a deadly standoff between Interior Ministry units and armed Ukrainian ultranationalists entered a third day in a western enclave near Hungary.